In 1907, NEW YORK CITY’S LANDSCAPE was on the verge of a dramatic change. At that time, the city still existed mainly as a low-rise metropolis rife with tenements, stables, slaughterhouses and factories. But with unbridled wealth pouring in and the construction of new subway lines opening up new neighborhoods for development, the Manhattan of the future was starting to take shape.
Critical in the city’s transformation were Yale-educated and Beaux Arts-trained architect John Walter Cross (1878–1951) and his younger brother and partner, Eliot Cross (1883–1949). They built a successful practice during the vibrant 1910s and 1920s, continuing to work through many difficult and extraordinary events in American history, including The First World War, the Depression and the Second World War. Together, they paved the way for contemporary architects and real estate developers.
And yet the names Cross & Cross have been largely forgotten, although their buildings and work are still essential to the character and face of New York. Robert A.M. Stern calls their RCA Victor building on Lexington Avenue, “one of the most inventive of all the romantic towers in New York, a brilliantly massed needle enriched by modern gothic detail.” And their Tiffany building, still a sleek and well-mannered architectural (and shopping) mecca on Fifth Avenue with its monumental sales room, was the largest column-free space of its kind in the country when it opened in 1940. Tiffany continues to use their designs as influence for the rest of their retail spaces around the world.